Ten reasons HidroAysen is not necessary

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1. It is not true that the demand for electricity in Chile needs to double in 10 years. In fact, it has grown at an annual rate of just 3.8% in the last 11 years, and any reasonable analysis shows a growth rate no greater than 4.5% per year.

2. Any energy development strategy should have energy efficiency as its fundamental pillar. If there is an active policy in this regard, beyond what occurs naturally at the initiative of companies, the savings will be much greater than any energy that HidroAysen could provide.

3. There are abundant renewable energy resources in both conventional territories of the SIC (energy grid in central and southern Chile) and the SING (northern energy grid) that can be utilized with much lower impact to the environment than Hidroaysén: more than 4,000 MW in geothermal; more than 5,000 MW of wind; more than 15,000 MW in mini-hydro; and well more than 40,000 MW in solar. And these sources are not much more expensive than HidroAysén, some are actually cheaper and more reliable.

4. There is a real risk to the electrical system of relying on a single point generating energy over a single transmission line extending as long as 2,300 kilometers.

5. Its already been shown that by diversifying the energy matrix (new players, non-conventional energy sources) you will have an energy supply that is more robust and you will save in marginal costs. With only just more than 3% of non-conventional, renewable energy in the SIC, the savings for the country will exceed 120 million dollars in one year.

6. The International Energy Agency (under OECD) recommended in 2009 that Chile needs to diversify its energy generation incorporating more non-conventional renewable energy sources, increase the number of companies that provide energy, avoid large hydroelectric and thermoelectric projects and increase citizen participation. And they stated all of that should be in addition to a central pillar of any energy strategy being energy efficiency.

7. The project will cause damage to the watersheds of the Baker and Pascua rivers that is irreversible. The future for development in Aysen is its people and natural resources -- to sacrifice this unique part of Chile is to sacrifice its future development.

8. The project clearly favors the companies involved, but does not promote the development of the country, nor does it increase energy security and clearly does not lead to lower energy costs as Chile’s energy sector will stay concentrated in just a few hands.

9. HidroAysén-type projects, big dams, are considered 20th century era projects and not 21st century. Clearly, today the world's energy development is now going down other roads.

10. Finally, its the Aysen region, plus the people on the more than 2,000 kilometers the electric transmission line must travel to Santiago, that will have to bear the costs while the benefits of the project will accrue to others.


Authors: Roberto Roman is an associate professor at the University of Chile, expert on renewable energy, and vice-president of the Internatonal Solar Energy Society.  Stephen Hall is director of International Sustainable Energy Ltd. 


Photo courtesy of Jeff Foott and International League of Conservation Photographers



Some of are guest columnists have so far included
  • Andres Gillmore, director of Corporación Costa Carrera 
  • Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate, National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
  • Lucas Chiappe, coordinator of Proyecto Lemu, El Bolson, Argentina
  • Damien Gillis, a documentary filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada
  • Jorge Moller, Chilean representative to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)
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